This Fridge Magnet depicts Vulcan railcar RM56, from a painting by well-known artist Paul Johnson of Christchurch New Zealand.
The NZR RM class Vulcan railcars were operated by the New Zealand Government Railways (NZR) in the South Island of New Zealand. On 9 May 1938, the Minister of Railways announced an order for ten railcars from the Vulcan Foundry of Britain.
The first Vulcan railcar arrived in New Zealand in September 1940. Three more arrived by April 1941, with all nine members in operation by the second half of 1942. Ten railcars were built, but only nine arrived in New Zealand as the ship carrying the tenth was sunk during World War II.
from 28 October 1940 Vulcan and Midland railcars alternated the Christchurch–Greymouth–Hokitika services along the Midland Line and the Ross Branch. A Vulcan railcar ran on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and a smaller Midland railcar ran on the other days. By September 1942, the Vulcans had fully taken over the service and the Midland railcars were withdrawn and then scrapped.
From 7 September 1942, wartime petrol restrictions meant the Vulcans were put into service on the Stillwater–Westport Line between Greymouth and Westport (150 km or 93 miles), even though the line through the Buller Gorge technically wasn’t finished and hadn’t been handed over to the Railways Department from the Public Works Department. Early morning and mid-afternoon services were provided in each direction daily. With double running (two cars coupled together) this meant four vehicles could be required for these services, which connected with Christchurch–Greymouth passenger express trains at Stillwater. Also due to the petrol restrictions, a service between Christchurch and Timaru was instituted and the Hokitika run extended all the way to Ross. After the war ended, the West Coast services continued to operate, but the Timaru run ceased.
On 20 February 1956, the new articulated 88 seater railcars replaced the Vulcans on the Christchurch–Greymouth–Ross services. This allowed freed-up Vulcan railcars to provide daily Dunedin–Cromwell passenger services along the Otago Central Line (250 km or 155 miles) from 1 October 1956. From 11 May 1958, the services were cut back to Dunedin–Alexandra (220 km or 136 miles) due to low passenger numbers beyond Alexandra.
On 29 September 1958, a weekday morning service commenced using Vulcans on part of the Main South Line from Palmerston to Dunedin, and a return service run in the evening. The railcars were also used for Dunedin suburban services – notably a midday service to Port Chalmers – whenever they were available for such use.
The Vulcan railcars were never used in the North Island, where the Standard railcars performed a similar role.
RM56 is now preserved at Canterbury Railway Society along with RM51 and RM57. RM50 has been preserved at Plains Railway Ashburton.